Once you’re a father you start thinking about how you’ll need a second or third job to pay for everything, including all those gifts for your child’s friends.
There’s a unique look new fathers get in their eye.
It’s a rarely seen yet unmistakeable combination of joy, fatigue and utter terror. Before I had a child, it was easy for me to understand why I could discern joy and fatigue in the eyes of mates with newborns, but I never quite understood the terror part.
But now I get it. The terror is the realisation that dawns on a man when he clocks that his formerly healthy bank balance is never going to look the same ever again. That children – cute, cuddly, gurgling, pink little things that they are – cost a shitload.
Nappies are daylight robbery to start, then there are prams, cribs, romper suits and seemingly endless other paraphernalia required to raise your precious little bundle in the earliest months. While shopping for baby crap I often used to think of our primitive forebears whacking their helpless little things on banana leaves while they went out and killed a mammoth, then bath-time in freezing cold pond water before bed at 5pm. How coddled we’ve become…
If you’re at this stage of fatherhood, I have news for you. Financially speaking, it gets worse. You don’t fully appreciate how often your hand is in your pocket until the little dears are actually in school. Multiply it by some number totally inconceivable to me if you’re in the position to send your kid to a ‘name’ private school.
There comes a time when you and you’re ever diminishing finances need to take stock and set some boundaries before you’re living in a hole in the road.
I learnt boundaries were needed when I made a classic rookie error once my child started going to school. One of my ‘jobs’ as ‘dad’ – for some dubious reason I’ve long forgotten – was to take my daughter to the kids birthday parties of her newly made friends. Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely when your offspring first gets invited to parties. A little weight is taken off your mind: thank Christ she’s socially accepted!
In the first couple of years, because they’re all forming new friendships and working out their social cachet, there’s A LOT of kids birthday parties. Of course, I had NFI about 1) what gift to buy for Amelia for her fifth birthday, and 2) what amount was reasonable to spend on the aforementioned gift. What I ended up doing, the first few times was taking my daughter to the toy section and asking her what she thought Amelia might want for her birthday.
What the fuck was I thinking? Thirty-five dollars later, buying something clearly my little girl wanted way more than it would ever be possible for us to ascertain Amelia actually wanting, we were on our way to the party.
Other kids birthday parties – for adults supervising their young child – are an interminable nightmare anyway, but triple it when it comes to the gift-opening part of the big day when Amelia creates a mountain of sticky tape and rainbow-and-unicorn wrapping paper and is now surrounded by cheap crap from other friends that clearly cost no more than $10. Except for that beautiful 35 buck pressie you bought her. Even her mother looked at me like I was certifiable.
And that’s when the $20 limit for kids birthday parties started. I had to take some account of inflation (the incident above was a while back) but whether it’s her BFF or some classmate she hates but who has no other friends so invited everyone, a $20 present (or less, please) it is.
This philosophy, you will find, soon permeates into much of your seemingly endless outlay for childhood activity.
You want $2 for tuckshop? Here’s 50c. You want to ride on this, that and the other at the fete? Check out the firies over here showing off their shiny red engine for free! You want the $140 Nikes for sports days? The $5 Kmart jobs will last almost as long and (get creative) look just as cool.
Wages are flat, full-time jobs are disappearing, money is tight. It would be great to give them everything their little hearts’ desire, and make it all top shelf shit… but it just ain’t possible.
We need a take banana leaf out of the book of our antediluvian ancestors sometimes, and promote a less is more lifestyle.